In a state first, the University of South Australia has teamed up with Blackfriars to help deliver the Year 12 Architecture program.
Blackfriars Architecture teacher Owen Stanborough said the UniSA partnership was a game-changer for the Year 12 students, our first cohort to study SACE Stage II Architecture.
“They (UniSA) have done other projects with schools … but nothing like this,” Mr Stanborough said.
Launching the partnership, Dr Chris Brisbin, Program Director: Bachelor of Architectural Studies/Master of Architecture at UniSA, along with course coordinator, lecturer and PhD Candidate Andrew Lymn-Penning, visited Blackfriars to introduce the Year 12s to the cutting-edge gaming platform, Epic’s Unreal Engine.
Unreal Engine is described as “the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D creation tool”.
“While Unreal has been used to create a number of industry-leading games, such as Fortnite, it’s also been widely used to create some of the most recognisable movies and television shows today, such as Star Wars and the Mandalorian,” Dr Brisbin said.
Using Unreal Engine, the students will be able to take their designs to the next level – from sketches, to 3D renders, to augmented reality (AR), and to fully immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences. “Nothing compares to the kind of spatial immersion a student can gain in Unreal,” Dr Brisbin said.
Mr Stanborough said while there were many schools “dabbling in VR”, not many were creating their own content.
“They are using content already made and then having the VR experience to engage kids. Whereas, this partnership with UniSA allows us to make the content for VR.
“The students will know how to get their content to VR, through Unreal Engine, and then apply this to their major project. That’s how I want to present it. You’ll be able to do a VR walkthrough and view it on the screen, experiencing what they are seeing through the VR headset. That is the ultimate end goal.”
Interest in Architecture has soared since it was first introduced as a Year 10 subject at Blackfriars a few years ago.
Last year, Mr Stanborough’s Year 10 students were asked to develop mock plans for the back oval, incorporating tennis courts, a grandstand with capacity for at least 70 people, a soccer pitch and changerooms.
“It (Architecture) has really taken off because … boys can see a direct industry pathway,” Mr Stanborough said. “Maybe two, three years down the track, if we get it to a point that the boys are producing good-quality work through this process, UniSA is talking about giving them credit for that subject. That would be great for the boys and great for Blackfriars.”
He hoped the VR technology could eventually be used across the Creative Arts and Design Technology curriculum.
“I hope to create similar interest in the art/design area as well,” he said. “A lot of this technology is applied to games, developing characters, vehicles and worlds. If we can introduce it to all of those areas, especially in the senior years, that’s going to be huge. Whatever it is that you design, to have the opportunity to put it into a VR world, it’s pretty exciting.”
Dr Brisbin said the collaborative alliance between UniSA and Blackfriars was “nurturing future industry skills in students”.
“We are fostering a shared-learning environment that equips students with creative design skills and advanced technological expertise in platforms, such as the Unreal Engine, to better prepare our graduates to adapt to an evolving architectural landscape and ever-changing career pathways within it,” he said.
Head of Creative Arts and Design Technology Andrew Castiglio said he could not be more proud of the work Mr Stanborough, Creative Arts and Design Technology Assistant George Elmassih and the rest of the team had put in to secure the UniSA partnership.
“Creative Arts and Design Tech is going from strength to strength at Blackfriars, so much so that, this year, we’ve employed an extra staff members,” Mr Castiglio said.
“The boys are really embracing the opportunities. Having the partnership with UniSA to deliver the Year 12 Architecture course is an incredible coup for our school and for our boys – now and into the future.”